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October 29, 2012

Avoiding California State Income Taxes Moving Abroad

It is often difficult to give up your obligation to pay California taxes when starting to work abroad.  California is an "Intent State."  That California wants to continue to tax you until you show the intent of moving your tax domicile to another country or state.  They  look at all of the facts and circumstances in retrospect years later to determine if you actually had the "intent" to move your tax residency to another country.

There is a solution to the ambiguities involved with successfully giving up your California residency for tax purposes. That is the Safe Harbor Rule which can be used. Under that rule:
  • You must remain living and working outside of California for at least 546 days under a contract of employment;
  • You do not have more than $200,000 in investment income;
  • You do not return to California more than 45 days during any calendar year.
If you meet these criteria, you are automatically deemed to be a California nonresident for the period you work abroad even though you may still have a California drivers license, voter registration, etc.

It is important to successfully avoid California tax domicile status when living abroad since California does not allow the foreign earned income exclusion or foreign tax credits. If means if you remain a California tax resident a lot of taxes may be due.

Some states make it even tougher to give up the obligation to pay state taxes when working abroad. Virigina and New Mexico are just a few.

We can help you avoid continuing having to pay state taxes when you move abroad to work or retire. Contact us if you have questions or concerns at

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